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The End of Vandalism: A Novel Paperback – June 2, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The late Seymour Lawrence was celebrated for his discerning eye: Drury will figure among his literary legacies. Readers who encountered the 11 chapters of his first novel in the New Yorker can testify to the staying power of Drury's characters, generally lonely, well-meaning Midwesterners who live in the richly realized fictional terrain of Grouse County. In these small farming communities, where families have been intertwined for generations and no event can escape the shadow of the past and the petty gossip of the present, everyone knows everyone else, perhaps better than they should. A lovers' triangle is inevitable when petty thief Tiny Darling can't reconcile himself to his divorce from Louise; she, meanwhile, has drifted into an uneasy marriage with sheriff Dan Norman; and good-hearted, conscientious Dan now adds insomnia to the problems that plague him. Tiny is a comic and poignant antihero. Pugnacious and impulsive, but also confused and vulnerable, he is his own worst enemy, especially when he drinks. Tiny steals instinctively, because it seems logical to him: "Stealing is like being a chef . . . You can find work anywhere." Louise is muddled and unfocused until she becomes pregnant; Dan's quiet compassion can get in the way of his job. Drury has a bemused fondness for his characters' foibles and self-destructive impulses. In distinctive and dryly humorous dialogue, he captures the oblique, random chitchat of basically inarticulate people, who converse in a blend of ungrammatical vernacular and old-fashioned formality. His view of rural life is unsentimental: "Family agriculture seemed to be over and had not been replaced by any other compelling idea." And his sense of place and his eye for the particular in the mundane are extraordinary. This is a quiet book that grows in emotional resonance.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In the 296 square miles of Grouse County, Iowa, "family agriculture seemed to be over and had not been replaced by any other compelling idea." Even so, Drury's fictional world teems with idiosyncratic life. We witness much of it through the eyes of Sheriff Dan Norman, who arrests Tiny Darling for vandalizing an antivandalism dance, marries the culprit's ex-wife, comforts a local stripper, and listens atop his trailer to a former actress witness for Christ. Drury's narrative style is as flat as the prairie land, but amidst apparent blandness we discover an abundance of droll characters and quirky events. Drury's first novel (much of which appeared earlier in The New Yorker ) affectionately chronicles the mundane but elevates it to a richly comic plane. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/93.
- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802142702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802142702
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Wallace on December 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
My enthhusiasm for this novel sent me out searching a database of newspaper comments about it. A reader in Florida complained that the novel was too pointless to be any good. I am a notorious for reading a good book several times, and this novel is no exception. The deadpan humor fills me with glee whenever I pick it up. But there is more than just deadpan humor happening here. Like its literary ancestor, "Winesurg, Ohio," the running theme is the inadequacy of human communication in the face of petty meanness, true tragedy, and profound love. Before Louise marries Dan, she writes three times on a piece of paper, "Show me love." And then she hands it to him. Her need to communicate with Dan transcends even her sleep: She sleepwalks into his insomniacal nights and interrupts his excuses for avoiding their bed. I've determined that the Florida reader who was disappointed with this novel is probably a chatty type, probably also suburban. The characters in The End of Vandalism are taciturn and rural, from a place "where family farming ended and no compelling idea showed any interest in taking its place." There is a wonderful economy of language in places like Grouse County and in this novel, but the dialogue and narrative are as loaded as an opening-day shotgun. So, there is a point, Mr. Florida. You just didn't get it. Boy, I feel better.
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Format: Paperback
The End of Vandalism certainly is a unique, enjoyable read. Tom Drury's Grouse County and the people who inhabit it are quite a bunch. Ther eis Dan Norman, the rather half-hearted county sheriff; his wife Louise, who must contend with Tiny, her screw-up ex-husband and her tart-toungued mother Mary; and an assortment of other oddball characters who pop in and out of the narrative.
This novel does not take place in the "real world", but rather in an alternative America in a parallel universe. It's a shame that real people don't converse with the nutty, deadpan humor that Drury's characters do. The events in the novel happen to all of us, but most of us don't deal with them, or comment on them, like these Grouse County residents. It is these differences between reality and Grouse County that make this novel so enjoyable. It took me about 50 pages or so to get into the book, but once I did, I found it a completely enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone and I look forward to reading Drury's latest.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sure, this book is about Middle America, and there are no exciting lifestyles, just people dealing with mundane every-day occurrences. So what's so boring about that? I find human nature endlessly fascinating, and Tom Drury does a wonderful job depicting it. Whether the problem is fixing your tractor or fixing your marriage, he makes it interesting. The characters are well-defined and real. Give me this before any hot and trendy novel with 'exciting' characters.
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Format: Paperback
I often tell people that this is the funniest novel I've ever read that has no jokes in it. Sometimes it's the lack of punch line that makes you laugh.

The characters are simple people, but Drury never talks down about them. Each person gets their chance to try and explain themselves, even if no one else is listening.

Like many people, I first discover Dan and Louise and Tiny in the New Yorker. The first story I read was about half way through the series, so I had to scrounge back copies at the Library until I found them all. Each one was like a new found friend.

Not many books that I reread, but I can pick this book up, open it to any page, and feel welcomed and entertained.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I don't know how I went this long without being aware of Tom Drury's awesome writing skills. Never heard of him until I recently read "The Driftless Area." When I finished that, I decided I needed more Tom Drury. His books are hilarious and melancholy all at the same time. The characters in "The End of Vandalism" are REAL. Tom Drury definitely has the ability to breathe life into his characters and make you feel as though you've known them forever.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel sneaked up on me. At the beginning, it felt like a meandering story about people I would not care much about. After about 50 pages, I started to be drawn in and my interest and enjoyment of Drury's writing grew to the end. It's a beautifully told story often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, about real people and the way life often goes.
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Format: Hardcover
While I was hopeful that revisiting the full-length read of this book from 1994 would prove more satisfying than it did, I have to say that I was a HUGE FAN of Mr. Drury's when most of this novel was excerpted in THE NEW YORKER in the early '90's. There is something immensely likable about Tiny Darling, Louise and Dan Norman and, as such, I have to say that, at the end of this Midwestern day (where this entire novel is set--Iowa), this book is essentially CHARACTER DRIVEN.

I absolutely adore 3-4 set pieces that occur in this novel and some of the supporting characters (notably Louise's mother) are absolute GEMS. There is a quiet certainty about this novel and the envionment that the characters live in; this business of getting back to the basics with "ordinary people," living quiet lives of exuberant, earthly dignity is fine by me. In many places, this is a beautifully drawn and poised novel--Grouse County, Iowa, becomes a picturesque setting for Mr. Drury to springboard his characters from, and they do a fine job of coming to life and "leaping" off the page.

My one complaint is that while this kind of novel does not come off as inherently "exciting" to begin with, there does need to be some kind of action or cathartic wrap at novel's climax lest the entire enterprise be seen as too desultory and meandering. I got the sense that there could have been an entire other "act" to this piece of writing that would have given the novel, say, another 100 pages of length, in which to embroider the tale.

Still, all in all, I am VERY FOND of Tom Drury and this book and would definitely recommend it to more serious literary-minded types.
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